‘Grandma Got STEM’ Challenges the Stereotype of Technologically Hapless Old People


Denigrating grandmothers for their supposed lack of technological prowess is bullshit because a) big fucking deal you can use a computer — your grandmother was probably old enough during the moon landing to roll her eyes when Neil Armstrong read his cheesy “one small step” line, and b) grandmothers are really crafty, so crafty, in fact, that they feign hearing problems so they can eavesdrop on younger people. Old age is just a giant con job aimed at exploiting youth’s fallacious sense of imperviousness. Old age is also usually your first tip-off that someone could be fairly accomplished at something, since they’ve likely spent a lifetime practicing, studying, and applying that something.

Keep that in mind as you peruse Grandma Got STEM, a blog devoted to grandmothers who have had enviable careers in science, technology, and math. The list of grandmothers includes women like Professor Mary Ellen Rudin, a mathematician with 100 publications on MathSciNet, 435 citations, and research papers written from 2002. She lives with her husband Walter (who is also a mathematician, so we have a big-time nerd alert with this family) in a Frank Lloyd Wright house.

Then, there’s particle physicist Helen Quinn, who offers a little insight into how she became an scientist:

I am a particle physicist, PhD from Stanford in 1967, and grandmother of three young girls. My seven year old granddaughter got very excited when she saw my picture in the magazine “Science News”. She loves that magazine because her father often takes the time to tell her what some of the articles are about.
I grew up in Australia, came to Stanford as a senior when my family moved because of my father’s job (he was an engineer and inventor, though he had no degree).
My research in particle physics has been widely recognized, the poster shows the celebration of my work that occurred about the time I retired (although the picture of me it contains is from around 1976). Since then I have been working on science education, as a leader in an effort to develop new science standards known as Next Generation Science Standards that we expect will be adopted in many states.

The site’s goal is to “counter the implication that grannies (gender + maternity + age) might not easily pick up on technical/theoretical ideas.” Not only have women been working in STEM fields for a long time, but they’ve been passing on their proclivity for and interest in STEM disciplines to their kids and grandkids. This blog, then, not only helps challenge prevailing stereotypes about technologically inept old people, but it also helps remind anyone who might claim that science is the exclusive purview of men that there’s a longstanding precedent for women contributing heavily to STEM fields.

Grandma Got STEM

Grandmothers who are brilliant at technology [Boing Boing]

Image via Sergey Nivens/ Shutterstock.

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